Lake Forest mom starts reading products line
Lake Forest resident Diane Kavelaras, co-owner of Caboodle Kids, holds alphabet cards that her company produces. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Caboodle Kids
OWNERS: Diane Kavelaras, Nancy Anderson
LOCATION: 1070 Highland Ave., Lake Forest
SPECIALTY: Fun reading fundamentals products for toddlers, preschoolers
INFORMATION: www.caboodlekids.com; (847) 242-8444
Updated: October 16, 2012 9:02AM
LAKE FOREST — What began as an act of love to help her special needs daughter to learn has grown into a business for Diane Kavelaras.
Creating products designed to engage young children and inspire them to learn their letters is at the heart of Caboodle Kids, an online business the Lake Forest resident started two months ago.
The key, Kavelaras said, is connecting each letter with a whimsical animal or insect, creating a connection that helps children to retain what they’re learning. Her “Critter Crew Alphabet Cards” have a picture and name of a critter to correspond with each letter. And each card has a rhyme on the back.
“This is especially for little kids learning their letters,” she said. “They remember them and they remember the icons and the colors. These are all animals — they’re all in context.”
When Kavelaras’ oldest daughter was young, she had difficulty learning the alphabet, Kavelaras said. That inspired her to come up with her own ways to help her daughter learn.
“We used to make things up for her to learn her letters,” she said. “It really helped her a lot.”
With a lifetime of design background behind Kavelaras and business partner Nancy Anderson of Chicago, the two designed their own website and own products. As for creating an effective product, Kavelaras said, “I just have my own experience with my own daughter. To me it was a personal experience.”
Calling this just the start of the business, so far the website offers a set of 5X7 Critter Crew Cards, an assortment of large, colorful, alphabet prints featuring the critters, and a 52-page, stiff-paper-backed placemat book with tear-out pages on which children can color. Each placemat has the critters and rhymes printed on it.
Soon, Kavelaras said, she will offer Softies — animals that depict the same critters as are on the cards and placemats.
“They’re really more what a toddler can hold,” she said of the soft animals. “It’s just another level.”
The animals on her products also have names that celebrate diversity, like ZuZu Zebra, she said.
With hopes of someday selling the product in more stores, for now they can be purchased on her website and are available at the Book Seller in Lincoln Square in Chicago, where Anderson lives, she said.
“It took us about two years to get it going,” Kavelaras said. “This is just our start.”
Giving a percentage of the company’s profits each years to a nonprofit organization that nurtures reading and using only American-made products are an important part of running the business, Kavelaras said. Using environmentally friendly products, like soy-based inks and paper from well-managed forests, also are a must.
“It’s been fun. It’s been exciting,” she said. “It’s something we believe in.”